Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki is recognized around the world as one of the greatest submission specialists in the history of mixed martial arts.
The Japanese icon has put his black belt judo and jiu-jitsu abilities to good use to earn 25 of his 40 victories, courtesy of a variety of chokes and joint locks.
On Friday, 27 July, he will undoubtedly set out to uses these areas of expertise to lead him to victory once again, when he faces Thai knockout artist Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila, the Philippines.
As fans eagerly await this lightweight showdown, take a look back at three of the master grappler’s best submission victories.
An Emphatic ONE Debut
Not only was the Vietnam-based Frenchman a BJJ brown belt at the time (now a black belt under Gael Coadic), but he was riding plenty of momentum. He entered the contest on a six-bout win streak, and had eight submission victories under his belt from 10 professional wins.
However, the Japanese warrior showed that he is an instant threat to any opponent – even high-level operators. He wasted no time in bringing “The Game” to the mat with a perfectly-timed double-leg takedown.
Aoki made his transition from half guard to full mount look easy, despite LePont’s stellar BJJ acumen. From there, he launched a double-pronged attack, as he stepped over his opponent’s shoulder to threaten with both an armlock and a triangle choke.
“Tobikan Judan” opted to focus on the triangle, and squeezed as LePont attempted to roll on top of him. There was no room to escape, and his adversary was put to sleep just 85 seconds into the contest.
Aoki was up against a skilled opponent, but he never let him have even an inch. He dominated with a constrictor-like ground game from the opening bell, and he quickly scored an emphatic finish.
A World Title-Winning Effort
Boku, who captured the inaugural title with a knockout of Zorobabel Moreira six months earlier, returned to Singapore for the tilt, and he presented a very different stylistic threat to “Tobikan Judan’s” previous opponent. His calling card was his unquestionable punching power.
Aoki negated that threat by dominating the first round on the ground. He came close to finishing the bout a few times, but the durable titleholder hung tough.
His hold on the belt grew weaker in the second stanza, as “Tobikan Judan” found the takedown in the opening seconds, and did not return to his feet until the job was done.
He patiently pummeled “No Face” with ground and pound, and only increased the intensity of his attack when his adversary tried to defend from a turtled position. From there, he also saw his opportunity to sink in a tight rear-naked choke.
The previous ground assault had worn down the representative of the Krazy Bee gym, and he could not find the strength to fend off Aoki’s submission attempts. He tapped to the choke at the 2:01 mark the second frame.
Aoki Out-Grapples The Wrestler
After a brief flirtation with the featherweight division, Aoki returned to his natural weight class to defend his World Title for the first time.
Shalorus’s right to challenge for the gold was iron-clad, following his consecutive victories over Eduard Folayang and Ariel Sexton in his first two bouts in ONE.
Although the Iranian favored wrestling, it was Aoki who struck with the takedown. He tripped his opponent against the fence and, in true “Tobikan Judan” style, he dictated every movement on the mat.
The Japanese champion passed Shalorus’ guard to the mount, used a few strikes to take his opponent’s back, and brilliantly locked on a rear-naked choke. He cinched up with such force that “The Prince Of Persia” had no choice but to submit.
A Pure Grappling Masterclass
The greatest tests of Aoki’s ability on the mat inside the ONE cage have come in his grappling super-bouts. Without the ability to strike, athletes win or lose based solely on their grappling acumen during a single 15-minute round.
On paper, it was already a daunting task, as the former ONE Featherweight World Champion boasted a long list of accolades from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, pankration, and mixed martial arts competition.
Once the match began, the Russian lived up to his billing, and was relentless in his aggressive attack. With four minutes left in the contest, he maneuvered to Aoki’s back to threaten with his signature rear-naked choke – a technique he used to earn six consecutive victories between 2014 and 2016.
Aoki used his strength and savvy to fold his assailant’s legs away from him and take top position. From there, he passed to side control, isolated Gafurov’s right arm, and shifted his weight to move onto his back – where he immediately locked up a rear-naked choke that forced the tap within seconds.
Tied Up In A Tight Triangle
Aoki began his journey back to the ONE Lightweight World Title in May at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS with his first bout in the division for 18 months. Despite that time away, he looked better than ever with a sensational display of bout-finishing finesse.
His intentions against Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev were clear from the start, as he rushed into the clinch within seconds of the opening bell, and jumped for a spectacular flying armbar. Though he narrowly missed securing a finishing move in less than a minute, he modified his attack to sweep his opponent with an omoplata as he landed.
That piece of inspired grappling offense was followed with some more basic, but expertly-implemented effective positional dominance, as “Tobikan Judan” applied pressure on his opponent’s chest to pass his guard.
As soon as he was clear of Yakhayaev’s legs, Aoki moved into a mounted triangle, and rolled to his back. Though he absorbed a few strikes, the hold became deeper and tighter with every punch.
As the Japanese hero pivoted to the side and pulled down on the head, the sambo specialist was left with no other option but to tap with 3:15 on the clock.
Manila | 27 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Facebook: Prelims LIVE | Twitter: Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onekings18